In March of 2008 I went to Cuba. It was my first time visiting the island and I probably won’t go back until there is a change in government. What follows is the story of a progressive Argentine/Spaniard who had a Michael Moorish view of Cuba until he actually visited the island. Now my view is that there’s nothing progressive about Cuba. That progressive in Cuba can only mean to get rid of the Castrismo and open up, not à la China, a country that is brutally capitalist now, but still managed by the Communist Party, but á la Hungary or most of Eastern Europe, evolving from Communism to a welfare state like democracy.
Bruce Feiler the best selling author of a series of wonderful non religious books about religion such as Abraham and Walking the Bible has a provocative post in his blog today entitled Muslim Blood in the White House? In this post Bruce, an expert in religious relations describes Obama´s complex family background and wonders if somebody who was partly raised as a Muslim can be elected president in a country that is at war with Muslims. Moreover the subject becomes more complicated by Obama´s own description of his upbringing which was a complicated mix of Islam, Atheism and Christianity.
Obama — whose father, stepfather, brother and grandfather were Muslims — explained his own first name, Barack, in “Dreams”: “It means ‘Blessed.’ In Arabic. My grandfather was a Muslim.” In his second memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama added: “Although my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist.”
Being an agnostic Jew myself (would not call myself an atheist Jew cause atheist has that militant anti god component that I don´t endorse) and knowing how strongly most Americans feel about religion I cannot think of a least popular combination for a Presidential candidate than having a Muslim/Atheist background. I think this issue is likely to be raised again and again in the election, especially by whoever his Republican opponent is should Obama make it to the Presidential race. Unfortunately most American´s are quite xenophobic, if Kerry got hit for liking the French, what will happen to Obama Hussein Barack? Frankly I think this is sad because I think that Obama´s unique cultural heritage will make him more sensitive to racial and human relations.
My view on the Huffington Post.
You may not know this, but there´s actually a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. Personally, when I visit this amazing historical monument, I was shocked to see that this was the case. It seems that the Forbidden City is Forbidden to all….but Starbucks as there are no other commercial establishments inside this architectural wonder.
Personally, other than the fact that Starbucks offers expensive WiFi and its coffee that pales in comparison to Lavazza, my favorite brand, I have nothing against Starbucks. But the Forbidden City is not the place to open one up and when I was there I wondered what kind of corrupt official allowed that to happened.
So I fully support my friend and Chinese blogger Rui Chenggang who started the Starbucks revolt in Beijing and may actually succeed in removing Starbucks from the most sacred place in secular China.
Being rich is great until….you run for political office. Regardless of whether you are in Argentina, as is the case of my friend Francisco de Narvaez , or anywhere else in the democratic world, being rich is generally seen as an obstacle for political candidates.
Why is being rich a handicap even for people like Francisco de Narvaez, who are not running conservative campaigns aimed at favoring the interest of the top earners?
My take, is that being rich creates a barrier between the voter and the candidate that is hard to overcome. Voters want to identify with candidates, they want one like them, not a candidate with a private jet. Never mind that Francisco, in spite of his jet, is probably better able to attract the investors needed to generate good quality jobs than the current governor.
So how is is it that certain rich candidates overcome this handicap? In the case of George W Bush and John Kerry, the strategy was simple: Dubya portrayed his opponent as even richer and less in touch with the people. And he was successful. In the case of Berlusconi, his strategy –which worked until his promise was not delivered–, was to promise to make Italians richer… with him being the main example. When he failed to deliver, he was ousted.
Now it so happens that I believe that Francisco de Narvaez would actually do a good job improving the living conditions of people in Buenos Aires. From my conversation with him today it seems that he is not a conservative or right wing candidate and he is concerned with the tremendous inequities of Argentina.
My advise to him? Blog. Many journalists will trash you just for being rich. At least you will be able to show your point of view. A third of Argentines are on the internet now and his type of voters are overrepresented in that third.
Having said all this, I do think that there is a risk that Francisco will have a hard time sometimes acting against the interest of his friends in the ruling class for the benefit of all of the people, and that is the danger of voting progressive candidates who are rich. Francisco, who is now a representative, will have to have a good voting record that shows that he can vote for what´s best to most Argentines.
I think that it´s time that United States learns from the way anti American pseudo democrats are dealing with democracy to suit their own political objectives. Democratically elected leader Ahmadinejad is a master at getting Iranian voters to back him in his anti American agenda. So why doesn´t America use the same method to legitimize the Iraqi invasion?
I think USA should run the Should I stay or Should I go referendum in Iraq. Instead of having yet another meeting to discuss in Washington what should happen in Iraq, USA should ask the Iraqi people what they want them to do in Iraq.
I envision a very concrete referendum, something like, “should we pull out by April 1st or stay another year to help Iraq democracy succeed?” If the majority asks America to stay another year, then the invasion is legitimized. If, instead, they ask America to leave, then America says “mission accomplished, when we came Iraq was led by a genocidal dictator, we brought this dictator to justice, established the principles of democracy and now we leave”. And America will save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
Pinochet finally died. In this video Niklas talks about transparency on the internet and that internet is making it harder to be a dictator. Now this is my free association. I grew up suffering the dictatorship of Videla in Argentina in the 70s a contemporary of Pinochet. I think that new style dictators, like Hugo Chavez ,have a much harder time than Videla or Pinochet, who finally died at the age of 91 (how can dictators live so long??).
Videla/Pinochet could control newspapers, radios and TV and rule unchallenged. Nowaday dictators have the internet to deal with. They need the support of a majority of the population who watches TV to oppress a more educated minority, who uses the internet. The internet is always a problem for them and in many cases dictators selectively block it.
Nowadays, most people who oppress minority rights –like Ahmadinejad or Chavez– need to make the majority of people vote for them. That does not mean they are not dictators, but they are a new breed of more moderate dictators who have to learn how to use the new media tools available to them and only occasionally…murder. Hitler was elected. Being a dictator does not mean not to be popular, it simply means to have an unreasonable amount of power and use it to control the opposition and minority groups in order to remain in power for an unreasonable amount of time. Anyway, Niklas did not say any of these things. I just freely associated.
Before last summer Hezbolah was a minority force in a Lebanon. Before last summer most Lebanese saw Hezbolah as group of fanatics funded by Syria and Iran who could not be trusted to rule Lebanon. But Nasrallah, working jointly with Ahmadinejad and Bashar Al-Asad outsmarted Ehud Olmert and thanks to his naivete have now placed Hezbollah at the center of Lebanese politics.
With a minor provocation of the kind that Sharon would have ignored, Hezbollah managed to get Israel to invade and cause so much fear in Lebanon that public opinion completely turned. And now Syria, Hezbollah´s supporter, went from being perceived mainly as an invader to being seen as a saviour mainstream party of Lebanon.
How could Olmert make so many non Hezbollah Lebanese see Hezbollah as a group they can trust? In my opinion because Ehud Olmert made the same mistake asGeorge W Bush which is basically to act so radically against radicals that in the end the radicals end up looking like moderate to most of the people they are trying to appeal to.